So many times we become ill and run to the doctor or to the pharmacy to medicate our problems. Often, this is appropriate behavior. But sometimes we are given what can only be considered bad news and have no hope in worldly solutions. With that in mind, lets us look at our text for today. Isaiah 38:1-8:
1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city. 7 “‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down. 1
Hezekiah was confronted with an illness in which he had no hope of recovery; he was ill to the point of death. Isaiah came to him and told him what God had said: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Each of us is going to die. All of us have an appointment with death at some point; as Hebrews 9:27 states: “…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Most of us do not know when we will die or how. Some of us, however, are confronted with an explicit death sentence.
Sometimes a doctor will come and tell us what we are dying of and approximately when we will die. How we react tells a great deal about our walk with God. We can react in fear or worry about our future. We can worry about what will happen to us when we die. We can put our affairs in order. Or we can turn to God.
Instead of preparing to die, instead of putting his house in order, Hezekiah did what each of us SHOULD do: he turned away from the people to get a bit of privacy and he prayed. He wept bitterly and prayed. In today’s society, many would say men are not supposed to cry. However, being told you have very little time to live will affect you strongly, and tears are just one way this is expressed. Sometimes we reevaluate that which is important to us. Sometimes we regret the things we have done or not done.
Perhaps Hezekiah weeping was because he had no heirs, or maybe it was simply because he had been told he was dying. But one thing is sure: Hezekiah turned to God and reminded him of the life he had lived. He didn’t explicitly request to live longer. But he DOES ask God to remember the good things he had done. He was not boasting when he mentioned his life. Second Kings 18:5-6 says:
“Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses.”
Hezekiah was a man who lived the life God wanted him to live – and he was reminding God of this. Perhaps his reason for doing so was to remind God of Ex 20:6, which states that God will show “lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Perhaps he was simply showing sorrow. We don’t know. But one thing we DO know, 2 Kings 20:4-6 tells us,
“Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”
God ANSWERED Hezekiah’s prayer! And although He answered it for His own sake, and that of King David, we too have received a promise of answers to prayer. Turn to John 16:22-27, Jesus Himself said:
“I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
Those who love Jesus and believe He was sent by God the father will have their prayers answered also. Granted, we have to want the things that God wants and for the reasons that are godly; turn to James 4:2-3,
Jesus Himself said we will get what we ask in His name, but James reminds us that we must ask, and it must be with the right motive. Asking in the name of Christ is not just to end your prayers with the phrase “in Jesus’ name we pray.” It means that you are filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit and are asking what HE wants you to ask. Do you ask God? Do you ask God for the things that HE wants you to have? And do you ask God for the things He wants you to have for the right reasons? If you do, then you too will have your prayers answered! It may not be in the way you expect, but they will definitely be answered.
Hezekiah prayed and received a sign – indeed the sign he asked for. In 2 Kings 20:8-11,
“Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, ‘What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?’ Isaiah answered, ‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?’ ’It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,’ said Hezekiah. ‘Rather, have it go back ten steps.’ Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”
Hezekiah was given a choice and he asked for something that could not be mistaken as anything other than coming from God. He saw the shadow go backwards. It may be this was a localized event. It might be something that only Hezekiah saw. It might be something only Judah saw. It might be something the entire world experienced. We do not know for certain. But we DO know that God not only answered Hezekiah’s prayers, but gave him a sign it would come to pass as well. Hezekiah was given an additional 15 years of life.
Are YOU in a position to have your prayers answered? Do you walk with God? Do you believe God the father sent Jesus to die for your sins? Do you love God? Do you ask God for what HE thinks you need and for reasons that are unselfish? If not, I pray you do so now. Turn to God, and then live a life worthy of your calling. Trust in God and He will answer your prayers.
1All Bible references are taken from The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.